The Sunday Magazine

Flynngate is Watergate all over again - Michael's essay

It's not the crime, it's the coverup. Here's an excerpt: "Less than a month into the Trump Administration Year One and the "very very excellent" Trump team of Cabinet secretaries and Oval Office walk-ins seem more like Titanic survivors looking to the horizon for the Californian. It was during the Trudeau visit to the Oval when it suddenly occurred to me; this is Nixon and Watergate circa 1973 all over again."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) jokes with retired Gen. Michael Flynn as they speak at a rally at Grand Junction Regional Airport on October 18, 2016 in Grand Junction Colorado. (George Frey/Getty Images)

Sitting high in the stratosphere of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland last July, I watched a parade of the strangest speakers I'd ever seen at a political convention address the Republican delegates.

Real estate hucksters, D-list television stars, mad call-in show hosts, weepers, creepers, the weird and the woeful. 

One New York developer in sunglasses looked like he was in witness protection.

One of the speakers was Lt. General Michael J. Flynn, a much-decorated soldier. He went on extolling Donald Trump's clear-eyed assessment of the threat of radical Islamism.

Then he began dumping all over Hillary Clinton. The crowd started to chant, "Lock her up! Lock her up!" General Flynn smiled broadly, clapped his hands and yelled; "Yeah, that's right, lock her up."

I said to myself, thank God this screwball will never get anywhere near the Oval Office.

I was as right about that prediction as I was about Trump never being elected President.

Michael T. Flynn (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

The general, of course, went on to fame and infamy as being the shortest-serving national security advisor in the history of the country — 24 days.

It was not the first time he was bounced. Barack Obama fired him in 2014 from his post at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Less than a month into the Trump Administration Year One and the "very very excellent" Trump team of Cabinet secretaries and Oval Office walk-ins seem more like Titanic survivors looking to the horizon for the Californian.

It was during the Trudeau visit to the Oval when it suddenly occurred to me: this is Nixon and Watergate circa 1973 all over again.

Not a blinding piece of insight on my part, but the similarities are stunning.

Watergate began uneventfully enough. A group of angry Cuban exiles led by a ham-fisted CIA hack named James McCord broke into the DNC office of chairman Larry O'Brien.

It was only months later, thanks to the efforts of two young Washington Post reporters, that the Nixon White House got dragged in.

It wasn't the break-in so much that brought Nixon down, it was the coverup.

Those of us bitten by the Watergate bug well remember Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee and his famous; "What did the president know and when did he know it?"

The line was disinterred this week in relation to President Trump.

I thought it might be fun to run down the staff lists of both presidents and compare and contrast.

Steve Bannon, Trump's special adviser is surely Bob Haldeman, the teutonic Nixon chief of staff.

The strange Stephen Miller is undoubtedly John Ehrlichman, the domestic adviser.

Press secretary Sean Spicer would fill in for Nixon's flack Ron Ziegler, except he doesn't lie as well as Ziegler.

The hapless vice-president Mike Pence is the reincarnation of the hapless Gerald Ford, number two to Richard Nixon.

The beleaguered Jeff Sessions, the new attorney general, could easily be John Mitchell, the Nixon beleaguered attorney general.

First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner, a younger less jowly Henry Kissinger.

American president Richard Nixon announces his resignation on national television, following the Watergate scandal. ((Pierre Manevy/Express/Getty Images))

And with all the leaking going on in all departments, including the West Wing itself, we can fully expect a plumbers unit being set up before the end of the month.

The ubiquitous Kellyanne Conway would be a natural fit for the Charles Colson role, with a bag of dirty tricks thrown in.

It's fun to play the game on a dark winter's night, but something is very seriously wrong with the new government. The veteran CBS news anchor Dan Rather has predicted the security foul-up will be bigger than Watergate.

With the Great Leader in North Korea tossing missiles around, with China making belligerent noises to Japan and with a Russian spy ship off the Connecticut coast, this is no time to have the American intelligence apparatus run by people who apparently need adult supervision.

Senators and Representatives in both parties are calling for a complete investigation. 

I'm not suggesting the whole messy affair will end in a presidential impeachment or resignation. But who knows?

Some Americans who feel the election of Donald Trump was something approaching a national tragedy should remember what Karl Marx had to say on the subject:

"History repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce."

Or maybe it was Groucho.

Click the button above to hear Michael's essay. 

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